Molly Hooper sat alone in her office, desperate for distraction, trying to focus on the screen in front of her. Failing on both counts.
It was the easiest thing in the world to do: Hit send, salvage their friendship. Hit send and they’d be right as rain.
Wrong, the buzzing in her brain warned.
Only it wasn’t buzzing. It was a voice. Set on an endless loop.
I love you…
“Hit send, Hooper,” she whispered. “Everything’ll go back to normal.”
I love you…
That wasn’t their normal.
Molly laughed at the absurdity. She’d spent years willing Sherlock to say those words to her, ever since their first meeting at St. Bart’s…
✸ ✸ ✸ ✸ ✸
She was a junior doctor, in her third year of specialized pathology training, happily up to her elbows in a lorry accident victim when Sherlock stormed through the morgue doors. The tails of his enormous black coat and Mr. Tomlin, Bart’s director of credentialing and governance, trailed behind him. The mortuary didn’t receive many hospital administrators. Nor did it play host to 6-foot tall strangers possessing skin bordering on preternatural. Something deep inside Molly’s belly fluttered at the sight of him.
It quickened when she registered his lush bottom lip.
And pooled between her legs after catching a glimpse of his very prominent clavicle. Molly harbored an indecent fetish centered around clavicles.
His was superb.
She’d almost forgotten about Mr. Tomlin until she heard him gasp at the sight of her, a lacerated kidney in her hand. The visitor, however, didn’t flinch. He crossed the room, hands clasped behind his back, in two smooth strides and stood on the opposite side of the autopsy table. Without so much as a “hello”, he bent over the body for a closer inspection.
Infuriating. What a downright pompous man.
Infuriating, pompous man with an absolutely lovely pattern of moles scattered down the muscular column of his neck.
Molly couldn’t help herself from leaning in. His scent wrapped around her - posh soap and something dangerous - pulled her down as if by a string. More like a rope. Impossible to break free from. She was so startled when he looked up at her, looked into her, with blue eyes as deep and cool as a glacial lake, she nearly dropped the kidney.
“Oh! I..um…I…I should probably put this…down...otherwise, the cleaning crew'll have kidney pie all over the floor!” She snorted. Loudly. In front of him.
The visitor made no attempt to ease her embarrassment. He straightened and watched. Her. “Great,” she mumbled, fumbling around for a clean specimen pan, hoping he’d direct that laser beam focus elsewhere...
She couldn't help wanting to remain the center of his attention. Indefinitely.
What was wrong with her?!
In just three minutes, he'd already proven himself to be an infuriating, pompous…probably posh arse given his coat and suit. And scent. What kind of man doesn’t at least say “hello” upon entering a room?
Infuriating pompous men with eyes now more gray-green than blue, she noted. The change intrigued her more than she cared to admit. Molly momentary lost herself in his gaze, watching the colors of his irises dance and shift until she felt her face flush.
“Oh shit,” she whispered. Molly knew she was no beauty. Short, constantly tongue-tied and supremely uncoordinated when out of her lab coat, she didn’t normally garner interest from beautiful men. Not even the prats. And now her body decided to crank up the humiliation, breaking out in its signature wave of red splotches.
“Well, then, Miss Hooper, I’d like to introduce a new...associate to you.”
“This is Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
Sherlock? Yep, she called it: Posh.
“Mr. Holmes, this is Miss Hooper —“
“Molly," she corrected, smiling bold and bright despite the warm stinging of her cheeks. "You can call me Molly.” She thrust a hand in his direction, instantly appalled at her eagerness to touch his skin. And more than a little put off when he made no move to shake her hand in return.
Oh, come on! Either she was being played or this tosser was a legitimate sociopath.
She raised her chin at him, stretching her arm out even farther. A challenge, daring him to defy social convention with Mr. Tomlin so nearby.
Sherlock blinked, sliding his eyes down to her hand and back up to her face. The corner of his mouth twitched upward in amusement.
Molly railed against the liquid warmth spreading through her body and pulled back, catching sight of her hand. Her gloved hand. Covered in blood and bits of kidney tissue. Dear god! Could this afternoon get any worse? Spontaneous combustion seemed to be the only reasonable way out - literally dying from embarrassment.
Mr. Tomlin was utterly oblivious to her discomfort, nattering on with his introductions. Sherlock's mouth stretched into a wide, tight-lipped grin and still he said nothing. Tomlin instructed Molly to afford the apparent graduate chemist every courtesy, skimming over Sherlock's vague ties to Scotland Yard and an older brother with some authority in the British government. All the authority.
“Well, then. I’ll leave the two of you to get better acquainted,” the nervous little man yipped and scurried off, most likely to vomit in the morgue's anteroom.
Sherlock barely acknowledged Mr. Tomlin's exit. Seconds seemed to tick into minutes. He'd yet to utter a word. His eyes fixed on her face, examining her as though she were a specimen under glass.
Molly rushed to cover the furious beating of her heart. “Don’t suppose he’s keen on kidney pie, then,” she snorted. Again.
Shit. She should really stop talking… “Perhaps I should’ve offered him the liver —“
“Tell me, Miss Hooper,” he interrupted, “do you moonlight as a comedian?”
His voice rumbled through her. It was low in timbre but filled the room with ease. The sound unnerved Molly - pleasantly so. Kind of like fire, the way it has the ability to ripple over you, warm you. Or completely destroy you...
He was an imperious arse. She was a credentialed doctor for goodness sakes! She didn’t have time to nurse a graduate chemist with a hobby! No matter how gorgeous.
“What? Comedian? Me? I’m a doctor,” she stuttered. “I’m in my third, no fourth, wait, third —“
“It a requires a simple yes or no, Miss Hooper.”
Was he kidding her? He must be kidding. He was, what, a year older than her? Maybe two, she guessed. Who walks around in a suit jacket and tailored trousers at that age? Self-important bastard. And what’s with the ludicrous overcoat? Did he fancy himself a vampire or something? And that ridiculous head of hair… didn’t posh boys own mirrors and combs - in multiple rooms of their Sloane Square townhomes?
Her fingers twitched. She was assaulted by an overwhelming need to bury them in those very curls - curls she knew would feel like spun silk - and dig her fingernails deep into his scalp.
She also had an urge to slap him right across the cheek - hard - marking his alabaster skin with her handprint.
Laying claim to those cheekbones and that sharp nose.
“I…I don’t understand,” was all she could muster.
He didn’t respond, making her think he didn’t understand.
“Well, no matter,” he huffed, “If the answer’s ‘yes’, I suggest you consider other hobbies. if the answer’s ‘no’, I'm inclined to thank you for not pursuing any of the comedic arts. Jokes aren’t really your area of expertise, are they…Mol-ly Hooper?”
He drew out the syllables of her name longer than necessary, caressing each before letting them land at her feet. In that moment, Molly would’ve afforded him ‘every courtesy’. And more.
He turned and stalked toward the mortuary door. “I’ll be in next week to run a few experiments. How does Tuesday suit?”
The emotional whiplash made Molly dizzy. Her brain sputtered trying to work out a biting response. She followed behind him to…what? Stop him? Berate him?
Kiss him? He was an absolute shit.
And she'd tell him just that, beautiful boy or no.
Sherlock stopped short and spun round to face her. The suddenness of his movements came close to knocking Molly out of her sensible professional clogs. He looked down at her. “Oh, and I’ll need a few things. A reasonably fleshy, and very fresh, cadaver for one. And an assistant.” There it was again, that twitch at the corner of his mouth and the corresponding flutter in her belly. “Mr. Tomlin mentioned the juniors might be at my disposal but —” He paused, letting the room go perfectly silent. “— I’d prefer it if we kept my visits just between us. I like to know I can count on my assistant and working with a different surrogate each time just makes my work more frustrating. So, the cadaver and you, Mol-ly Hooper.” He turned back toward the door and pushed through, leaving her no opening to object. From halfway down the hall, he added, “I’ll bring my own riding crop. Afternoon.”
✸ ✸ ✸ ✸ ✸
So long ago... The computer's cursor blinked at her, bright and angry, returning Molly to the present. How was it she remembered every detail about their first quarter hour together and nothing of the rest of that week? Strange, considering it included a mini-break holiday with her dad and her cousin’s wedding.
All she remembered was Sherlock…and the agony of counting down the slow hours until he returned to the morgue the following Tuesday. With his own riding crop.
Nine years had passed between them since that first afternoon.
And two I love yous.
Three if she counted his instructions to her. "Just say these words..."
Four, if Molly counted her own reply.
No matter how she did the math, the sum total hurt like hell.
Molly hit send.